Demon with a Glass Hand

"Demon with a Glass Hand" is an episode of The Outer Limits television series, the second to be based on a script by Harlan Ellison, which Ellison wrote specifically with actor Robert Culp in mind for the lead role. It originally aired on 17 October 1964, and was the fifth episode of the second season.[1]

In 2009, TV Guide ranked "Demon with a Glass Hand" #73 on its list of the 100 Greatest Episodes.[2]

"Demon with a Glass Hand"
The Outer Limits episode
Episode no.Season 2
Episode 5
Directed byByron Haskin
Written byHarlan Ellison
Cinematography byKenneth Peach
Production code41
Original air dateOctober 17, 1964
Guest appearance(s)

Opening narration

"Through all the legends of ancient peoples — Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Semitic — runs the saga of the Eternal Man, the one who never dies, called by various names in various times, but historically known as Gilgamesh, the man who has never tasted death ... the hero who strides through the centuries ..."

(Narrator Vic Perrin mistakenly says "Sumerican" instead of "Sumerian".)


Trent (Robert Culp) is a man with no memory of his life before the previous ten days. His left hand has been replaced by an advanced computer shaped like his missing hand and protected by some transparent material. Three fingers are missing; the computer tells him they must be reattached before it can tell Trent what is going on. Trent is being hunted by a handful of humanoid aliens called the Kyben; they have the missing appendages. The action takes place in a large rundown office building which the Kyben have sealed off from the world. In this deadly game of hide-and-seek, Trent enlists the help of Consuelo Biros (Arlene Martel), a woman who works in the building.

For reasons unknown to him, Trent was sent into the past via a "time mirror", located in the building. A captured Kyben tells Trent that both of them are from a thousand years in the future. In that future, Earth has been conquered by the Kyben, but all the surviving humans except Trent have mysteriously vanished. The aliens are being obliterated by a "radioactive plague" that is killing all intelligent life on the planet, apparently unleashed by the humans in a last-ditch effort to repel the invasion. In a desperate attempt to find a cure for the plague and to extract whatever knowledge is stored in the hand/computer, the Kyben have followed him back in time with the missing fingers.

Eventually, Trent defeats all of his Kyben hunters by ripping off the medallion-shaped devices they wear to anchor them in the past. Trent successfully destroys the mirror and recovers the missing fingers, one by one. When the computer is whole, he learns the terrible truth: he is not a man, but a robot. The human survivors have been digitally encoded onto a gold-copper alloy wire wrapped around the solenoid in his thorax. Immune to disease, he must protect his precious cargo for 200 years after the Kyben invasion, by which time the plague will have dissipated. Then he will resurrect the human race.

Trent had thought he was a man, as he and Consuelo had begun to develop feelings for each other. With the truth revealed, she leaves him, pity mixed with horror in her eyes. Trent is left to face 1,200 years of lonely vigil.

Closing narration

"Like the Eternal Man of Babylonian legend, like Gilgamesh, one thousand plus two hundred years stretches before Trent. Without love. Without friendship. Alone; neither man nor machine, Waiting. Waiting for the day he will be called to free the humans who gave him mobility. Movement, but not life."


The teleplay by Harlan Ellison won several major awards:

  • 1965 Writers Guild of America Awards — Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology
  • 1972 Georges Melies Fantasy Film Award — Outstanding Cinematic Achievement in Science Fiction Television


Ellison's story outline depicted a sprawling, cross-country chase between the Kyben and Trent (then named Mr. Fish). Because this would have been prohibitively expensive, producer Robert H. Justman suggested that Ellison contain most of the action in a single structure when he went to script. Ellison agreed, realizing that by forcing the plot into an enclosed space, the change from a linear pursuit to a vertical climb—ascending as the action developed—would make for heightened tension. Most of this episode was shot in the Bradbury Building, the same location used for the final scenes of Blade Runner and a closing scene in the 1950 film noir classic D.O.A.

Ellison's 10-page story outline was published in Brain Movies III in 2013.[3]

Ellison's friendship with Robert Culp dates from the production of this episode. He found Culp to be very intelligent, quite a contrast to most actors, whom he described as "dips — strictly non compos mentis." When Culp first met Ellison at the Bradbury building location for the film, Ellison introduced himself in a loud voice and told Culp that he wrote the episode just for Culp. Culp also stated that he felt it was one of the best written episodes of television in the history of the medium. Culp indicated that he felt the success of the series and this episode was due to the fact that it was, essentially, a morality play.[4]

Adaptations and unproduced sequel

A graphic novel adaptation, illustrated by Marshall Rogers, was published by DC Comics January 1986. It was the fifth title of the DC Science Fiction Graphic Novel series.

Ellison's original script was published in Brain Movies Volume One, by Edgeworks Abbey, in 2011.[5]

During the run of Babylon 5, series creator J. Michael Straczynski often said that Ellison would write a sequel to this story (possibly called "Demon in the Dust" or "Demon on the Run") as an episode. However, the proposed sequel episode never appeared. Ellison was a creative consultant on the series and said in a behind-the-scene book about Babylon 5 written during that show's third season:[6]

"I want very much to write this script and Joe very much wants it, and I think it probably will get written during this next season, but one never knows. I don't want to promise because if you promise, then all of a sudden fans on the internet start screaming, 'Well, where is it, where is it? Why doesn't he do it, why isn't he doing it? He's late again, he's late again.' And then I have to get cranky, go to their house and nail their heads to a coffee table!"

In addition to "Demon With A Glass Hand", Ellison wrote other stories set against the backdrop of the "Earth-Kyba War." He adapted five of these — "Run For the Stars", "Life Hutch", "The Untouchable Adolescents", "Trojan Hearse", and "Sleeping Dogs" — into the graphic novel Night and the Enemy (1987), illustrated by Ken Steacy. Also, Ellison's short story "The Human Operators" - later adapted into an episode of the new Outer Limits - is set in the same universe as this story (The Starfighters were originally built for the Earth-Kyba war).

Allegations of plagiarism

Some media outlets had previously reported that "Demon with a Glass Hand" was the basis of a settlement that Ellison received after it was allegedly plagiarized for The Terminator. These claims were disputed by the argument that the claim and subsequent settlement were exclusively premised upon the argument that the opening moments of The Terminator had plagiarized the other Ellison script produced by The Outer Limits, "Soldier". Harlan Ellison himself clarified this in a 2001 exchange with a fan at his website: "'Terminator' was not stolen from 'Demon with a Glass Hand,' it was a ripoff of my OTHER Outer Limits script, 'Soldier.'"[7]

According to the Los Angeles Times, the parties settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount, and an acknowledgment of Ellison's work in the credits of Terminator.[8]

James Cameron emphatically denied Ellison's allegations and was opposed to the settlement, stating "For legal reasons I'm not suppose [sic] to comment on that (the addition of acknowledgement credits) but it was a real bum deal, I had nothing to do with it and I disagree with it."[9]


The industrial band Cabaret Voltaire sampled "Demon with a Glass Hand" extensively in several works:

  • "Stay Out Of It" from The Voice of America (1980): "the third part of your brain ... you know where it is?", "don't kill me please please" and "and my hand...told me what to do".
  • "Yashar" from 2x45 (1982): "There's 70 billion people of Earth, where are they hiding?"
  • "Soul Vine (70 Billion People)" from Plasticity (1992).
  • "Soulenoid (Scream At The Right Time)" from Plasticity (1992).

UK broadcast

This episode was first transmitted in the UK on BBC2 on Friday 28 March 1980. Although the first season had been screened in the UK in 1964 by Granada TV, and a few other ITV regions, it wasn't until the BBC transmitted all 49 episodes, in two seasons between 28 March 1980 and 17 July 1981, that the second-season episodes were first seen in the UK. The BBC chose "Demon With A Glass Hand" as the first episode to be broadcast, none of the episodes were screened in series order, with second-season episodes mixed in with first-season episodes. This was also its last UK terrestrial television broadcast.[10][11][12]

Feature film

On June 20, 2014, it was announced that the episode would be adapted as a motion picture.[13]


  1. ^ The Outer Limits: The Official Companion, by David J. Schow and Jeffrey Frentzen, 1986, Ace Science Fiction
  2. ^ "TV Guide's Top 100 Episodes". Rev/Views. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  3. ^ Brain Movies The Original Teleplays of Harlan Ellison Volume III, pgs 115-124, Edgeworks Abbey, ISBN 978-0-9895257-0-1
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2013-07-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Bassom, David (1996), Creating Babylon 5. Boxtree. ISBN 0-7522-0841-1.
  7. ^ Ellison, Harlan. "The Ellison Bulletin Board".
  8. ^ Marx, Andy. "IT'S MINE All Very Well and Good, but Don't Hassle the T-1000". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
  9. ^ "When Ellison Attacks". James Cameron Online. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  10. ^ A Television Heaven review Archived 2010-09-30 at the Wayback Machine /Radio Times/Shadow Play fanzine No.1, page 16 (1986) article by Terry Doyle
  11. ^ Starburst - A Marvel Monthly No.30 Volume 1,number 6 (Jan 1981),page 46
  12. ^ TV Zone article by Tise Vahimagi
  13. ^ "Classic sci-fi TV show 'The Outer Limits' coming to the big screen". Entertainment Weekly's

External links

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Arlene Martel

Arlene Martel (born Arline Greta Sax, April 14, 1936 – August 12, 2014) was an American actress, writer, and acting coach. Prior to 1964, she was frequently billed as Arline Sax or Arlene Sax.

Byron Haskin

Byron Conrad Haskin (April 22, 1899 – April 16, 1984) was an American film and television director. He was born in Portland, Oregon.

C. Robert Cargill

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Expanding Human

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Gilgamesh (Kodallı opera)

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Harlan Ellison

Harlan Jay Ellison (May 27, 1934 – June 28, 2018) was an American writer, known for his prolific and influential work in New Wave speculative fiction, and for his outspoken, combative personality. Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho, described Ellison as "the only living organism I know whose natural habitat is hot water".His published works include more than 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, comic book scripts, teleplays, essays, and a wide range of criticism covering literature, film, television, and print media. Some of his best-known work includes the Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever", his A Boy and His Dog cycle, and his short stories "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" and " 'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman". He was also editor and anthologist for Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972). Ellison won numerous awards, including multiple Hugos, Nebulas, and Edgars.

Harlan Ellison bibliography

This is a list of works by Harlan Ellison (1934–2018). It includes his literary output, screenplays and teleplays, voiceover work, and other fields of endeavor.

Marshall Rogers

William Marshall Rogers III (January 22, 1950 – March 24, 2007), known professionally as Marshall Rogers, was an American comics artist best known for his work at Marvel and DC Comics in the 1970s.

Robert Culp

Robert Martin Culp (August 16, 1930 – March 24, 2010) was an American actor, screenwriter, voice actor, and director, widely known for his work in television. Culp earned an international reputation for his role as Kelly Robinson on I Spy (1965–1968), the espionage television series in which co-star Bill Cosby and he played secret agents. Before this, he starred in the CBS/Four Star Western series Trackdown as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman from 1957 to 1959.

The 1980s brought him back to television. He starred as FBI Agent Bill Maxwell on The Greatest American Hero and had a recurring role as Warren Whelan on Everybody Loves Raymond. Culp gave hundreds of performances in a career spanning more than 50 years.

The Human Operators

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The Invisibles (The Outer Limits)

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The Outer Limits (1963 TV series)

The Outer Limits is an American television series that was broadcast on ABC from 1963 to 1965 at 7:30 PM Eastern Time on Mondays. The series is often compared to The Twilight Zone, but with a greater emphasis on science fiction stories (rather than stories of fantasy or the supernatural matters). The Outer Limits is an anthology of self-contained episodes, sometimes with a plot twist at the end.

The series was revived in 1995, airing on Showtime from 1995 to 2000, then on Sci-Fi Channel from 2001 until its cancellation in 2002. In 1997, the episode "The Zanti Misfits" was ranked #98 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.

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The Voice of America (album)

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Writers Guild of America Awards 1965

The 18th Writers Guild of America Awards, given on 23 March 1966, honored the best film and television writers of 1965.

Yashar (song)

"Yashar" is a single by Cabaret Voltaire. The single is two remixes by John Robie of a track from their 1982 album 2x45. A version of the song also appears on the live album Hai! (Live in Japan).

The single was released in May 1983 on Factory Benelux (FBN 25) and Factory Records UK (FAC 82). It reached No. 6 on the UK Indie Chart.

The track features a sample "There's 70 billion people of Earth; where are they hiding?" from the Outer Limits episode "Demon with a Glass Hand".

As well as the 5:00 and 7:20 versions on the single, a 6:36 version was released on the 1983 compilation LP Factory Benelux Greatest Hits.Further remixes of the track were released on Mute Records' NovaMute imprint in 2003 (12", NovaMute 12-NoMu-121, 9 June 2003).

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